Hope at the Crossroads, and writing my heart

Crossroads FINALThe countdown is on for the release of Hope at the Crossroads, the 2nd book in the Hope series. The book is set to release on Sept. 5, which is only 7 short weeks away. Right now, beta readers are finishing with the book, and then it goes to the editor before it’s finally released to all of you.

This series is one that’s extremely close to my heart. This morning I was thinking about what the entire 3-book series is about, and what it means for me. When I first wrote The Road to Hope, it was only meant to be a stand-alone book. I wrote about Jill’s loss of her son so that I could write about my feelings of losing my own son to stillbirth. I wrote about Maddie’s journey as a teen mom and becoming homeless so that I could write about my own journey as a young mom who struggled through poverty. I wrote about the Wilsons, who took Hope in and gave her a home, because they were like my own parents who nursed me back to health after I left an abusive marriage.

When I ended that first book, I felt like I’d said everything I needed to say. But then I realized, I really hadn’t, particularly through Maddie. That first book, I spoke about loss, about falling down and then getting back up. What I didn’t write about was what happens next. What happens after you’ve turned your life around? I’ll tell you what—your mind plays tricks on you. Your life might look different, but inside, you’re still that same person you were, ready for the deck to fall in your fragile house of cards. When things are great, you question if you’re worth all this goodness. You are prone to turning back to your old lifestyle. You feel inadequate. You may even sabotage everything you’ve gained in your new life.

In Hope at the Crossroads, Maddie is now living at the Winstons’ house with Hope. She’s just graduated, and her future is promising. She’s learning about the winery business with Mr. Winston, and her life on the streets is far behind. Except, it really isn’t. In her mind, she feels out of place. She will always be that rejected teen, the one her parents threw away, and then her boyfriend. She’ll always be that homeless pregnant teen, the one people avoided looking at while they walked by. She battles feelings of unworthiness while trying to move forward—and this affects every single aspect of her life, and threatens her relationships with the people who love her most.

While the 1st book was about falling back down and getting back up again, book 2 is about the inner battle of identity. It’s about life after a dramatic change, when life has changed but the mind hasn’t. It’s about worthiness, overcoming old narratives, and about how we tend to sabotage ourselves because we feel we’re not worthy.

I wrote this series to get out my most personal story of loss, identity, and redemption. But I also wrote it because I’m not alone. I wrote this to offer HOPE to others who have experienced loss, who struggle with overcoming lies about our identity, and about letting love lead us out of the trenches.

Of everything I’ve ever written, this series is the one that’s my heart.

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Book Crush: ‘The Beauty in Darkness: A Vampire Story,’ by Leah Reise

beauty

he story of The Beauty in Darkness, the debut novel of Sonoma County author Leah Reise, starts with an awakening of sorts, and a wish for true death. Edrea stands at the gates of the Décret, a clan of vampires who are sure to tear her apart for arriving without invitation. This is exactly what she is hoping for. She is two days into her life as a vampire, having been turned on her 29th birthday following the mortal attack from a rapist who left her for dead. And dead is what she wishes to be. It’s the only way to curb the insatiable thirst that is consuming her from the inside out. Unfortunately for her, the Décret have other plans.

So begins the tale of this Sonoma County native, a girl-turned-vampire who is cast into the underground world of San Francisco where the creatures of the night walk below the feet of the living.

Through the story, we learn of Edrea’s roots—a mom who plays favorites, an emotionally distant father, a doting yet elusive brother, and a jealous sister. Edrea, herself, is a free spirit, comfortable in her solitude. And even with their faults, this family is bonded. But now that Edrea is one of the undead, she must forget her family and move on.

Edrea’s new family is now Pierre, her creator. With him, she is to work for the Décret. She has the rare ability of being able to read people’s thoughts, and it makes her a useful tool among this clan. However, Edrea senses early on that something seems to be amiss with their eagerness over her gift.

What I love about this story, first, is the author’s ability with description. Reise has a gift for painting the scene without overtelling, and still offering enough detail to allow for vivid imagery. I was able to see everything within the story, and was easily transported from scene to scene.

The second thing I love is that much of it takes place in Sonoma County locations. This is one of my favorite reasons to read books by local authors, as they often use familiar places within their stories. Reise doesn’t disappoint, taking her characters to Bodega Bay and Santa Rosa, though much of the story is set in San Francisco.

The third thing I love is how large a role family plays in The Beauty in Darkness. There are definite themes that take place from both Edrea’s old and new life, which I’ll let you find out on your own to avoid any spoilers.  As of yet, there doesn’t seem to be any sequels planned (and the end was blissfully free of a cliffhanger). But I can see how the story could easily be continued.

All in all, I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys supernatural and vampire fantasy.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Rated PG-13 for some non-graphic sexual and violence situations.

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Book Crush: ‘The Lazarus Kid,’ by Tim Farrington

the-lazarus-kidI am a huge fan of Tim Farrington, having discovered The Monk Downstairs a few years ago, followed by The Monk Upstairs, and then concluding with every other book Farrington has ever written before re-reading the Monk books again (and maybe again). So when I found out he had written another book, I got it and started reading immediately.

The follow-up to the first two Monk books, The Lazarus Kid does not disappoint. Farrington’s beautiful descriptive writing paints each scene, placing a microscope on some points or aspects of certain scenes, and panning way out for a broader view in others. Farrington has a way with believability, offering details that breathe so much life into each event, it’s almost as if you are right there inside the scene instead of just reading the story from a page.

The characters have evolved since the first two books. Mike is still contemplative and spiritual in both mind and mannerisms, but we now see him in a deeper role as a father and stepfather – even if much of his parenting is done at a distance due to chaos on the job. Rebecca is a better mom than I am of a precocious teen, handling infuriating circumstances with clenched fists and outward grace. And Mary Margaret is every bit the rebelling teen, though I never once found her character to be cliche. Rather, I saw my own teen daughter in her (hence, my awe at Rebecca’s skills of keeping a level head).

Of course, there’s so much more to the story, but I don’t want to offer any spoilers at all. Just know that when you read anything by Tim Farrington, you’ll never be disappointed. I can only hope that Mr. Farrington has more books up his sleeve very soon.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
PG for some adult language. Aimed at adults.

Book crush: The Sea of Tranquility

tranquilityI’m not exactly crushing on The Sea of Tranquility, a novel by Katja Millay. However, I did enjoy reading it enough that I finished it in just a few days. And it’s a long book.

Let’s start from the beginning. I did not like the beginning. In fact, I was incredibly irritated with the beginning. We’re introduced to Nastya, a girl who can only think really hateful thoughts about anything and everything. She is carrying a huge secret about how her hand became mangled, and because of that, she has a huge chip on her shoulder. To top it off, she makes sure she is completely unapproachable by the way she dresses. Shooooort skirts. 4-inch heels. Painted on makeup. Everything tight. Her reasoning is that everyone is going to stare at her anyway, so she might as well have control over where they are staring.

This was the first thing I just couldn’t buy.

It goes on. She can’t cook to save her life. But apparently she can bake up a storm. She doesn’t talk, and is sexy/scary, and somehow that means the most popular guy in high school (Drew) is highly interested in her. She’s incredibly anti-social, and yet she keeps going to high school parties with him.

Here’s what I did enjoy.

Josh. This is Drew’s best friend who has basically lost his whole family to tragedy. He spends his entire life in his garage building furniture. It’s kind of old man-like, except it’s also sweet and manly at the same time. Think Sex and the City’s Aiden (Carrie, what were you thinking breaking up with him???).

Drew. Despite the fact that we’re introduced to a full-of-himself jock, he’s actually quite sensitive and sweet. He and Nastya have a totally inappropriate flirtatious relationship, but it becomes pretty clear that he’s not going to try anything because neither of them really want that.

Drew’s family. They’re basically that all-American family you wish could be yours, even if you’d probably be rolling your eyes the whole time. His mom has Sunday dinner every week, and anyone who wants to come is invited. It basically becomes a thing amongst all the friends. They even hold a family dinner when the parents are out of town, even if a bottle of tequila might be involved with the sit down dinner.

The build-up of Nastya and Josh’s relationship. Even if I hated the inevitable scenario that forced them to be apart (classic YA formula: MC is awkward and misunderstood. Meets love interest who’s awkward and misunderstood. Spends more than half of book denying love. Fall together in beautiful moment. One person messes up. Break up. Spends too long avoiding other person. Some thing or event forces them back together. Realizes they were in love the whole time. Lives happily ever after.), I enjoyed the sweetness within their relationship. With Josh, Nastya could let her hair down, strip off her makeup, and breathe easy. She kept her secrets, but she’s also safe with him.

So while this wasn’t my favorite book, I still recommend it. If you can overlook a few warts within the story, you’ll find a sweet tale of a broken girl who was dealt a hard lot in life, a broken boy who continues to live while everyone around him is dying, and a meant-to-be relationship that holds all the innocence neither of them had every been allowed to have.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
PG-13 for some violence and non-explicit sex.

Book crush: Hell’s Children

hellschildrenSometimes a book is so good, you don’t want it to end. And when it does, you go through a bit of a mourning period. This is a strange sentiment I’m feeling for a book titled Hell’s Children, but it’s where I’m at right now. The book starts out with Jack Ferris, a home-schooled kid who has to bury his own mom after a Sickness took her. The Sickness has stripped the world of all adults, leaving only kids behind, the oldest being 15, if they were lucky to survive the Sickness. Most older teens didn’t. Lucky for Jack, he’s learned survival skills from his parents, a couple who already foresaw that Jack would have to fare without them since they were seniors when they had him. Those survival skills are exactly what Jack needed to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, now run by various gangs of kids who are desperate to survive and void of morality. Jack and a few friends form their own group, and the story becomes a survival of the fittest with a dozen or more twists and turns.

The character development in this book is fantastic. There were so many characters mentioned, but the author did a great job giving each a distinct persona, and offering subtle reminders if a character hadn’t been mentioned in awhile. The last half of the book had me nervous, and I couldn’t stop reading until the end.

I totally recommend this book. In fact, I plan to buy a hard copy for my 15 year old son, who I think would love this. He’s not a reader, but when I mentioned the plot, he was fascinated.

Book love: A Place in the World

If your taste in fiction runs from literary to romance with a bit of adventure sprinkled in, I have a new book to recommend:  A Place in the World by Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon.  Here is the story line:

When her Colombian husband deserts her on his family’s coffee farm in a remote part of the Andes, Alicia struggles to make a life there for herself and her son even as guerrilla uprisings begin to threaten the area, and a nearby volcano rumbles to life. The passionate story, about a young biologist and a multinational cast of characters, is like a South American Out of Africa in the final decades of 1900’s.

This multicultural indie novel has been getting good reviews on Amazon since it came out a few months ago.  For more reviews and to read the first two chapters of the book go to: http://amzn.to/19wSFfX  

Reviews – by two other writers of multicultural fiction and memoir)

“Set down by fate on a remote coffee plantation in the mountains of Colombia, a young American expat discovers her deepest passions. The rainforest itself is the book’s most detailed and compelling character, and it’s this sense of place that holds Alicia most firmly ……..where her love for the people around her slowly comes to fruition. Gentle, moving, and elegiac, A Place in the World tells the story of a young woman who transforms an alien place into the home of her heart, and in the process transforms herself as well.” – Anastasia Hobbet, author of Pleasure of Believing and Small Kingdoms

“The moment you read the first paragraph, you are hooked …caught up in the beauty and wonders of the lush rainforest of Colombia. Alicia’s resilient spirit finds her a place in a man’s world, in spite of calamities. MacKinnon’s gift for weaving intrigue, adventure and passion …. into the lives of ordinary people …is sheer pleasure…. culminating in a riveting climax!” -Nona Mock Wyman, author of Chopstick Childhood and Bamboo Women.

About the author:                                       

Cinda MacKinnon Cinda MacKinnon has lived in six different countries, but grew up in Latin America. She began telling stories to her little brother when they were children in Bogotá. Her experiences and love for the people, culture and natural setting of Colombia were the inspiration for A Place in the World.

She is a writer, former university lecturer, and environmental scientist. She studied biology, has an MS in geology and a longtime passion for botany.  This background is apparent in the details on tropical nature and geology, as well as Latino society, that appear in her writing. Last year she published an award winning short story.   Cinda has also written articles on environmental topics and received the William Penn Mott Jr. Award for environmental advocacy.

Gaston She lives in northern California with her husband Tom and their golden retriever.  Gaston is a “career-changed” dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind where Tom and Cinda have been long time volunteers.

Cinda will appear on a local (San Francisco Bay) TV program (channel 30) called Conversations, to discuss her book. It will air starting Oct. 21, 2013. She has also been invited by The Next Word, a Washington D.C. area TV program (tentative date Oct. 29).

A Place in the World is now available in eBook formats on all electronic venues as well as in print. (A complimentary eBook is available to reviewers).

Links:

Website/ Blog : cindamackinnon.wordpress.com

Reviews: www.goodreads.com

Book is available at www.virtualbookworm.com  and at amzn.to/19wSFfX

 

Book love: Vacation, by JC Miller

I spent the first half of the novel, “Vacation” by local author JC Miller, frustrated with the main characters. William Koval, the protagonist of the story, has a hard time speaking his mind and standing up for himself. Annie Logan, the woman he ends up falling for, has no trouble speaking her mind by either running away or putting up an angry front – even when doing so seems completely heartless and over the top.

However, as the layers of their wounds began to unpeel, I began to see that these were, in fact, two very fragile people who had been brought together by their shared understanding of tragedy.

The story of “Vacation” introduces Dr. William Koval as a workaholic physician who is still mourning the loss of his late wife, Kathleen, three years after she was murdered. William still can’t find it in him to move much beyond his loss, though he manages by holding a stony front to the outside world.

It wasn’t until his supervisor urges him to take a much needed vacation that he takes a break from work and the mundane day-to-day. However, instead of finding some nice beach to lay on or other relaxing type of holiday, he decides to take the vacation his late wife had always wanted to take, ensuring her memory would compound the duration of his getaway.

William’s journey takes him across the ocean for a walking tour of England. He is accompanied by a group of other vacationing tourists, all with their wide breadth of quirks and tendencies. I found Miller’s way of painting a scene with varying characters refreshing; giving a distinct voice to each persona so that you could actually envision the way they walked and talked.

JC Miller (photo courtesy of Last Light Studio)
JC Miller (photo courtesy of Last Light Studio)

Of note was Annie Logan, a woman that slowly captures William’s attention. She’s sweet and smart, modest and lovely; and soon William discovers he can’t keep his mind off of her. It doesn’t hurt that she also lives close by to where he does, though they both traveled all the way to England to discover this truth.

That William would find love on a vacation dedicated to his late wife is not unusual. In fact, it was about time this widower stepped away from being chained to a memory, and found someone else who was worthy of his attention. What was strange, though, was how hard and fast he fell for someone he barely knew. I just felt like the author could have painted a more thorough picture of who Annie Logan was at this point, showing why she was worth more than just a passing crush. And when these feelings were discovered to be mutual, I felt like the author took a break from her descriptive prose to make a sprint over a moment that had been building up in William’s mind.

I wanted romance. I wanted chocolate and wine. I wanted lingering kisses and whispers of mutual longings and heartfelt wishes. Instead, I got a “Hey, what just happened?”

Admittedly, it was the aforementioned scene that left me the most frustrated, followed immediately by an event that threatened this barely blooming love. I found Annie to be lacking in grace, and I questioned why William would fall for someone who could only focus on her own situation and was blind to the devastating nature of William’s.

However, further reading made me wonder if this was, in fact, the author’s intention. She had spent the first half of the story revealing the nature of William’s grief, but not much is known about Annie’s. Through William’s persistence, the source of the angry front Annie puts on is revealed, as is the tenderness she carries underneath. And as more and more is learned about this mysterious love interest, it becomes so much more apparent why she reacts this way, and why William is drawn to her.

“Vacation” is a story of two people with much on their shoulders who come together under the most unconventional circumstances. JC Miller does a wonderful job of painting scenery and creating characters so that you feel like you’re standing in the center of all the action. She managed to evoke strong emotions in me as I read – the art of a skilled storyteller. And by the time I reached the end, I felt like everything I’d been shaking my fist up at the sky about was wrapped up exactly as it should be.

Discover where you can find “Vacation” by visiting JC Miller’s website at jcmillerwriter.com.

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Book Love: The Sensory Deception

The very first scene of “The Sensory Deception,” a newly released science fiction novel by Petaluma author Ransom Stephens, drops the reader directly into an action sequence of war. In the first chapter, we are introduced to fire, death, and the hint of sexuality. In the next, we’re in a dark cave of prisoners on the verge of escape.

These first two chapters give a glimpse into the story in real time before it moves into the back-story. This is a common writing trick – to capture the reader’s attention with the most crucial of scenes before diving into what happened before everything went to pot. And it works. I was left wondering what those first two chapters meant the whole time I read “The Sensory Deception,” with only hints towards the answer until the grand finale.

Admittedly, the book started out slow once past those first two action-packed chapters. But the scenes that follow are vital to explain the premise of the story.

A group made up of a scientist, a neurologist, and an engineer have come together to create VirtExReality, a virtual reality video game they hope to use to create environmentalists out of viewers. But to call it mere virtual reality is an understatement. These independent producers have managed to saturate the senses of anyone experiencing the virtual reality system, allowing them to step into the role to feel and think like the subject of the program – as if they were truly living the experience.

This show of sensory saturation is introduced when they demonstrate the product to Gloria, the venture capitalist hired to find funds for the product. She’s strapped into the program and is suddenly thrust into the life of a polar bear. She experiences the bear’s hunger, how it feels to hunt and feed on seals, and the journey that leads beyond the ice and into imminent danger.

From this first glimpse into the virtual reality system, Gloria goes from rising venture capitalist to a cash-strapped part of the team, bent on finding the funding for a project of this magnitude without compromising the underlying message of environmental awareness they hope to instill into the masses. But that’s the tricky part – convincing companies with deep pockets that this environmental product can compete with the fast-paced media being churned to the short-attention-spanned public.

To do this, the team promises potential investors the ultimate in environmental adventures – a fight to the death between a sperm whale bull and a giant squid. It’s a hefty promise, but it does the trick. If they can deliver, VirtExReality will hit the market fully funded with a potential to rake in the big bucks while also shining a spotlight on the group’s cause.

And that’s when things get difficult.

In the quest for the ever-evasive whale, the team comes upon several huge snags. They’re faced with pirates, skepticism, questionable methods for success, and danger far beyond what any of them (save for one character with an apparent death wish) have signed up for. Soon, the urgency to create a worthy virtual reality sequence becomes a literal life or death situation.

As author of “The Sensory Deception,” Ransom Stephens’ imagination is limitless in his ability to lead the reader through scenarios across the globe. As a scientist, Stephens flexes reality beyond the average person’s understanding, bringing unfamiliar concepts to light.

There were times I felt a bit lost as I read, unable to comprehend where the story was going when things began to get too detailed or technical. I had a hard time initially connecting with the characters, mostly due to the way the storyline jumped rapidly to each person’s point of view and different locales. And it’s safe to say that certain scenes would have fared better with a brief description rather than a lengthy narrative.

But overall, “The Sensory Deception” is a worthy read with fascinating concepts. Once the story migrated from process details and launched headfirst into a non-stop stream of action, my senses were saturated until the very last page.

Purchase this book at Amazon, or at the author’s website at www.ransomstephens.com.

Book love: Courting Greta

I’m not only a writer, but I am an avid reader. This book was handed to me by author Ramsey Hootman in hopes that I might enjoy it and review it. I not only enjoyed it, I devoured it in 3 days. Here’s what it was about, plus my two cents…

The beginning of love is awkward enough. But add in two social misfits in every sense of the title, and the results hold the potential for disaster.

In the book, Courting Greta, Samuel Cooke has spent the majority of his life fighting society’s view of who he is – a skinny and crippled computer genius who has never been the subject of a romantic encounter. Seeking out a drastic change in his life, Samuel ends his successful career as a computer programmer to become a computer teacher at a school in Healdsburg.

It’s there that he meets the school’s gym coach, Greta Cassamajor, better known as “Cass”, a teacher who strongly resembles Coach Shannon Beiste, “The Beast” from Glee.

Cass is avoided by everyone at the school – teachers and students. She’s an ox of a woman, as large as Samuel is scrawny. Her temper is easily provoked. She appears to have no friends, though she is loyal to keeping her team on the winning side. Right from the start, Samuel is warned to just stay out of her way by his colleagues and students. But something about Cass is intriguing to Samuel, eventually urging him to pursue this hard to please woman.

Author Ramsey Hootman, a native of Healdsburg, CA, spins a story of two people generally ignored by society, and makes them so endearing you cannot help but fall in love with them. In her debut novel, she proves that you can’t judge a book by its cover as secrets and past betrayals are brought to the surface of both characters, sharing the reasons for each brick they’ve put in place to keep others at bay. And through the course of the book, Hootman paints the portrait of a perfect love that has blossomed from imperfections.

What I loved most about this book is that it touches on all those weird things we think only exist in ourselves. Hootman takes two people who have very obvious qualities that make them outcasts, but they possess the same insecurities that every one of us has in our day to day lives. I found myself relating emphatically with the characters in spite of, or perhaps because of, the things that held them back. I loved how these two very different people came together to form the unlikeliest of couples – but they also just made sense as a couple. And I appreciated how deep the author went into demonstrating the multiple layers that exist under a tough posterior – how there is always more to the story than what one damaged soul wishes to divulge.

Some of the hidden highlights to also look for in this book:

– Ramsey Hootman is only the pen name for the author. If you know her real name, look for a brief appearance by her “alter” ego.

– Northern California peeps (like myself) will love the local references.  The town of Healdsburg paints the backdrop of the story, and even includes town favorites like the Future Farmers parade and festival.

– Alumni of Healdsburg High may have an easy time envisioning the halls and classrooms described in Courting Greta, as much of the book takes place there.

Courting Greta officially releases this week in bookstores on Tuesday, June 18th. For more information, visit the author’s website at www.RamseyHootman.com, or reserve your copy at Amazon.

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A mother cast into the spiritual world… A review of A Symphony of Cicadas

There are three kinds of people indie authors depend on to keep their dream alive:

1. People buying the author’s book
2. People telling others about the author’s book
3. People who leave reviews for the book once they’re done reading it

Bless the person who is all three!

Reviews, particularly, can be pretty hard to come by. That’s why you’ll often see us authors casually mention that reviews are always welcome (or rather, BEGGING you guys to leave reviews). Reviews not only serve as a big ego boost (trust me, our fragile egos do need occasional stroking), but they also are what help potential readers decide whether or not to buy the book. At least that’s how it is for me – I ALWAYS read the reader reviews before deciding whether a book is worth my time.

This weekend I received a review that I may have read at least a dozen times already. It not only shared snippets of the plot (without divulging any spoilers!), but shared how the reader could relate parts of the book to their own life.

I’m including a portion of the review here. To see the rest of the review (and several more), click here —-> http://amzn.to/17ayBAP.

(review by Claudine)

When a friend comes to you with a book they wrote, it can be bittersweet (“Sorry, Sci Fi/Romance/Young Adult isn’t my thing,” etc.) but I was compelled to read what she had written due to her excellent writing ability, which isn’t every ‘writer’s’ talent as you now. Even a GREAT story line can be ruined by a horrible writer. You try to be gentle with your review, but know in your heart it wasn’t great writing. Then, I WON a copy of her book and she sent it to me. Okay, I needed to read this. Now.

Wasn’t sure about the cover at first, thought to myself “Oh, no, is this a romance novel with bustiers flying and Fabio?” NO. No, it’s NOT. I promise, although there IS a certain chapter or two that must be there for the passion of the moment that is very fitting in each circumstance. Trust me.

I am please to write that THIS particular novel was the surprise book of the year for me. I expected great writing, great storytelling, but nothing prepared me for THIS story or the twists and turns it took along the way. I must also admit that being a Catholic and a former Orthodox Christian, the story reminded me of great mysteries and truths in our world and spiritual world without being preachy and directing you HOW to think about the characters, or MY beliefs (as a buffet Catholic now). The author allowed your mind to really digest the ideas and the amazing tapestry of spirituality brought into this well thought out book.

The protagonist, Rachel, grabs you and pulls you into the story immediately. Like Rachel, I am a mother with a son long after a divorce living with the man of her dreams, finally, I actually could feel what she was going through in the first few chapters when the tragedy hits and she struggles to make sense of her plight. The way in which these very delicate and novel shaping chapters were crafted must have drained her – even as she went in as a seasoned writer. I was linked to the book immediately and needed to take breaks in order to ‘digest’ what had last happened and take in the trauma that ensued from a BOOK. The power of the written word.

Emotional, yes. Beautifully written, yes. Painful at times, yes – but in a rich, well thought out way that made the prose seamless – the characters alive, the book even took on it’s own life many times.

When I read a book, I ‘see’ the movie playing out in my mind. IF it’s a well thought out and well written book. Seamless. This is one of those books.

Smack in the middle of the book is a mindblowing quick section regarding the afterlife and boundaries, a big boundary that I found amazing. Without giving anything away, I will tell you that it made me think of the Catholic’s version of purgatory (in a nicer way, much nicer – forget Dante) and the mystery of the Orthodox belief that the soul ‘wanders the earth for 40 days after death before departing’ — of course, 40 days is the count for everything in the church, and I’m sure the book goes on for way more than 40 days. Again, not preachy at all and fit for Christians and any other belief as well — a LOT of food for thought. Well done.

In the latter pages of the novel, there’s a section on Rachel’s parents which is full of adoration and beauty – the past, present and possible future with Aunt Rose is amazing and well played – and the ending of this book is nothing that you could imagine. I hear there’s another book in the works about this Rachel and I for one cannot wait to put my hands on one of the first copies to find out what she finds, who she becomes and what becomes of the families in the chapters.

Crissi did an amazing job for her first time at bat with this book. Of course, if I didn’t like it, I would have said so – but in a polite manner and with gentleness – and it wouldn’t have been THIS LONG of a review!!! I LOVED THIS BOOK and with my signed copy, I am giving it to another friend of mine to read and asking her to let us know her thoughts on this as well.

Do yourself a favor and read this book this summer. Then, share it with another. You will be richer for the experience of Rachel and her story. Thank you, Crissi, for this gem of a novel. Be proud.